Will my dog remember me? That’s a question people often worry about, especially if they’re leaving their dog for a few days or weeks.
Well, have no fear. The answer is yes, your dog will remember you, through both your scent and your face, especially your eyes.
How Dogs Remember You
One important way dogs remember people is through their amazing sense of smell. A dog has up to 300 million scent receptors in his nose, so he can sense smells 100 to an unbelievable 10,000 times better than we can, depending mostly on the breed. Your dog can even easily sense your scent in the air, on your clothes, or on things you’ve touched, which is how search-and-rescue dogs work.
Your dog also has a strong associative memory, which means he associates people with events, like food, playing ball, or riding in a car. So, your dog remembers your scent and associates it with you and with pleasure.
Dogs Remember Faces
Research strongly supports that dogs remember and recognize their human companions.
A 2020 study published in Animal Cognition (Eatherington, CJ, et al) found that dogs can recognize their owners through photographs, with a higher probability that male dogs would recognize their owners.
In 2015, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine how dogs remember faces. The study found that dogs have a specialized region in their temporal lobe for remembering faces. The researchers believe this also may help explain dogs’ “exquisite sensitivity to human social cues.”
In a 2013 study in Animal Cognition, researchers used a computer with faces flashed on a screen and found that dogs focused on the eyes of the people on the screen, whether the photo was upright or not. The dogs clearly recognized the faces of people with whom they had lived or spent significant time. They also concluded that dogs read facial expressions, such as anger, depression, or happiness.
Dogs Remember Voices
An older study noted that when dogs hear a voice they recognize, they expect it to be associated with that person’s face. This shows dogs “do not merely associate auditory and visual stimuli but also actively generate a visual image from auditory information.”
How Long Dogs Remember People
How long canine memories last is a matter of disagreement among researchers. Conclusive evidence of how many years a dog can remember a person or event is lacking, likely because of the difficulty of conducting such a lengthy study. That said, most researchers believe dogs can remember important people and significant events in their lives for years, perhaps until death.
So, yes, your dog remembers your scent, your face (especially your eyes), and your voice and associates them with happiness, love or snuggling, or maybe just with food.